Loudon II: Stewart, Earnhardt Jr post-qualifying interview

NHIS - Tony Stewart leads Chevy to top three qualifying spots Pole Winner and Third Fastest Press Conference Transcript TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET (Pole-winner) DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET (Qualified ...

NHIS - Tony Stewart leads Chevy to top three qualifying spots
Pole Winner and Third Fastest Press Conference Transcript

TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET
(Pole-winner)

DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET
(Qualified 3rd)

JUNIOR:

ON THE TRACK TODAY AND WHAT YOU THINK THE RACING WILL BE LIKE ON SUNDAY

"The track was good when I went out. I had a good qualifying mock run yesterday and the car was comfortable and it was about as comfortable today. We made some adjustments to tighten the car up for those couple of laps today and it was right on."

TONY:

WHAT DOES WINNING THE POLE DO FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE GOING INTO SUNDAY'S RACE, THE FIRST IN THE CHASE?

"Oh it absolutely kills my confidence. I can't believe it actually drove that bad and was that bad (laughs). No, obviously it's a perfect place to start when you're in the Chase. Everything is behind us now. It's just a matter of staying up there all days. Guys like Jeff (Gordon) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr) that have a lot to prove to themselves -- they don't really, but they just want to show everybody else there's a reason they belong in the top 10 with us. Our car is really good in race trim. It was good. I gained two-tenths today. The guys are excited. We've done everything we need to do as a team this weekend."

JUNIOR:

IS IT A SHOT IN YOUR ARM TO HAVE A GOOD QUALIFYING RUN?

"Yeah, it was. We haven't qualified good all year -- especially at the impound races. My cars just haven't had any grip. Michael (Waltrip) and Tony (Eury) Jr. have found some things at the qualifying runs in the impound races. I was able to get on that stuff today. I knew yesterday that the car was going to be comfortable. It's cool. This is good. We've just struggled all year. I'm appreciative of Tony Jr. coming to help me the rest of the season and trying to work on next year and everything that Steve Hmiel and everybody has done all year when things weren't working well. It means a lot. It's only one qualifying run, but it's definitely an improvement."

JUNIOR:

HOW FAR AHEAD CAN YOU GET IN THE NEXT 10 RACES TO BUILD FOR NEXT YEAR?

"Michael and Tony Jr. have run a more extreme set-up than we have all year, so it'll be good to get to work on that stuff. We've gotten to use some of it, but it's real hard to adjust during the race. So, I'll be able to learn a little bit about that and what we need to adjust the car because it's all backwards now. We've got these front springs now that you run and have to be careful what you turn on the car because it upsets the way the car sits and rides on the springs. We haven't figured that out.

"Hopefully by working with Jr. I'll be able to learn something about the adjustments in the race. So it's going to be huge. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins. At Phoenix, I'm going to drive the car that Michael ran second with and that I won with the year before. So hopefully we'll get a good strong top five run there. And Tony Jr. is determined to go to Talladega and try to win that."

TONY:

TALK ABOUT WRECKING HERE LAST YEAR AND CONTINUING ON IN THE CHASE

"We weren't really that good last year when the Chase started, performance-wise. This year, we've had three straight months of top five finishes with the exception of two races. Obviously, this year we're in a different situation than we were last year. If we have one bad race, it doesn't necessarily take us out of it for good. Last year, we needed everything to go right and probably needed everybody else to have some bad luck to even make us a contender. This year, I feel more confident that if we have a bad race, performance-wise will hopefully carry us through the rest of the year."

JUNIOR:

DID WORKING WITH TONY EURY JR. FALL RIGHT BACK INTO PLACE FOR YOU?

"It fell right back into place for me -- I think for him, too. I think we've both been looking forward to that. We've worked together all year long, just not on the same team. So it wasn't like I hadn't seen him in eight months. We just got to the track and went to it. We've got a lot more respect for each other now than we had then. That's probably the thing that will make the biggest difference in our relationship now is that we've gained so much respect for each other over the past 12 months."

TONY:

AFTER SEEING JEFF GORDON STRUGGLING, HOW IMPORTANT IS TEAM CONTINUITY AND WORKING WITH THE SAME GUYS?

"For (crew chief) Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) and I, this is our seventh year working together. With our past, we've through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We've grown from that. That's something that can easily tear a team apart. I haven't worked with anybody else in the Cup series. But I've worked with other Busch and Truck crew chiefs and this and that. I just know how good I feel when I get to the Cup series. When you say it's a little of this, he knows what that means. It's not even so much the words you say as the tone you use. It's huge. It's almost everything in this series. You've got to be able to communicate what your crew chief is doing. That's half the battle is at least have the battle."

TONY:

CAN YOU GET STALE BY WORKING TOGETHER FOR SO MANY YEARS?

"Yeah, absolutely. You see a lot of cases of that. The minds go different directions. We're the longest driver/crew chief combinations in the current era of NASCAR right now. I think that's why. I'm one of those guys that couldn't tell you the number of any of those springs. But I can tell you if it's too soft or too stiff. I can tell you what I need it to do that it's not doing. I've got that trust and confidence in Zippy."

JUNIOR:

WOULD YOU REALLY RATHER SET THESE 10 RACES OUT AND GO TO THE BAHAMAS OR SOMETHING?

"Not really. We could have made the (crew chief) change before these last 10 races. I really enjoy racing and I wouldn't take a vacation from it. A lot of pressure is off. You're either in or you're out. The hard part was leading up to it and having to deal with all the questions all the time. I put up with a lot to come here and practice and run here on Sundays and enjoy myself and race against my friends and my enemies. It's fun for me. I always find a way to enjoy it. We could have made this change before, but Michael and Tony Jr. were enjoying themselves and they deserved it. My people were loyal to me so I wanted to be loyal to them with my team. They're a good group. We went to a point where neither of us were in the Chase and try to work toward next year. To make it earlier wouldn't have been fair to anybody. It didn't work out as planned, but what we have going now is a good thing."

TONY:

ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT FOR THE CHASE, LIKE TRAINING OR HYDRATION?

"No, as soon as I get done here, I'm going back and fixing one of our famous 12-minute frozen pizzas (smiles). I can't cook anything, but I can promise you I can make a perfect frozen pizza with this machine we have in the bus. And I'm going to pull on another Coke and drink that even though that's not really good for hydration either. Not really. The good thing is that with conditions like this, hydration is not really a huge factor on a weekend where the temperatures are cool and the sky is overcast. It's not so hard on us as drivers. We're almost through the hottest time of the year. Kansas is pretty hot. That race we'll probably work harder on -- not because we're in the Chase, but because you have to do that to be prepared for that race."

TONY:

THE FANS DON'T SEEM TO BE JUMPING UP AND DOWN OVER THE CHASE. THIS YEAR SHOWS IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA

"Why is it not a good idea?"

TONY:

IT TAKES DALE JR. OUT OF THE WHOLE OPERATION

"So are you saying we're supposed to come up with a situation where Dale Jr. is in the Chase?"

TONY:

DON'T ALL THE TEAMS QUALIFY TO RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?

"Well, that's the way it was two years ago. We didn't choose this situation to change. You need to ask Brian France."

JUNIOR:

NOW YOU'VE LOST TWO TOP COMPETITORS IN THE FIELD

"Well, we lost. We didn't run good enough. That's what it boils down to. We didn't perform on the race track to be deserving enough to be in the top 10. The Chase is exciting. The drivers, the personalities, the teams, the level of competition is enough for the fans to enjoy if not more. It'll be as exciting as if anybody else was in there. The combination of drivers is pretty interesting to me. I think the fans will tune in regardless of whether you're a Dale Jr. fan or not, you're going to watch the race to see who wins the championship. I think it would be a travesty and a discredit to the sport if they made any kind of solution to try to fit the superstars of the sport, or whatever you want to call us, into the Chase. It would make me feel pretty bad anyway. I wouldn't feel very good about it either. Guys like Tony and the ones deserving to be in the Top 10 damn sure wouldn't appreciate it."

TONY:

"I feel so bad about it right now, I want to withdraw from the Chase. I'll be honest. Here, here, you take the pole tomorrow and I'll go to the Bahamas. I didn't realize it was that big of a drama. I thought the 10 guys who did the best job in 26 weeks to get in the Chase were the guys deserving to run for the championship. I didn't realize a popularity contest was involved in the Chase for the Championship."

JUNIOR:

ON THE GUYS WHO ARE NOT IN THE CHASE HAVING RESPECT FOR THE ONES WHO ARE IN THE CHASE

"If you're a human being, you'll know who is in the Chase and you'll respect them. If it's halfway through the race or even maybe in the last 10 laps, you'll definitely be more respectful to guys who are in the Chase. If I know I've got to knock Tony out of the way to get by him, I probably wouldn't do it because of fear I might put him in the fence if it's the last lap of the race. I would expect everybody to be that way. Whether they'll admit it or not, they'll be doing that when they get down in the corner. At the same time, if you're in the lead, you'll hold your ground as hard as you would. You wouldn't roll over for anybody. You don't want to be the guy who takes somebody out of the race. "I already feel pretty guilty and responsible for Dale Jarrett not making the Chase after wrecking him at Watkins Glen. I know what a little bit of that feels like."

TONY:

HOW WILL THE ROUSH DRIVERS BEHAVE? WILL THEY BE A GANG?

"I don't really worry about that. Those are five drivers trying to win a championship. They all have an even chance of winning it right now, so I don't think you'll see any of that."

TONY:

THE FANS WERE REALLY MOVED WHEN YOU WON HERE IN JULY?

"It was awesome. To climb the flagstand -- I just want to thank the speedway. Somebody said they tightened the cables. That makes me feel a little better if I get lucky enough to try it again. I'm not going to say I'm the benchmark for whether the fence is tight enough or not, but if the skinny kid sitting next to me went up there it was still going to bend. If that's the case, we'll send Spencer up there because Spencer makes me feel like Dale Jr. does to me. I think that's a fair adjustment. The fans respected the time we took to climb up in the flag stand and celebrate with the fans before I even come back to victory lane and celebrate with the race team was something special. They enjoyed and appreciate what we did."

JUNIOR:

DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE THE 10-RACE JUMP OFF AS THE CHANCE TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE TEAMS IN THE FUTURE?

"It's a good opportunity if you feel like you need to make a change or you're curious about making a change. When you see a team like Jeff Gordon does it, you'll see it a lot more. It's a time to prepare for next season."

TONY:

HOW WOULD NOT HAVING THE CHASE, HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH JUNIOR OR JEFF BEING ANY CLOSER TO FIRST THAN THEY ARE RIGHT NOW?

"I don't know that it would make a huge difference. When you look back, you just answered your own question. Zero. Obviously it would give them an opportunity to gain in the points past 11th. But otherwise, I don't know if it would make any difference. I think this format has been good. To see the excitement at Richmond -- the fans were there to see who made the Chase. If two or the marquis drivers aren't in it, they're still there to watch the guys who are in it. If that's the case, the rest of us should all quit driving NEXTEL Cup and turn on the TV on Sunday and watch Jeff and Junior run each week. I don't think just two guys in this series are going to make it go or not go."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart